Will Roe Stand?
December 2, 2021
by Jeffrey Barrows, DO, MA (Bioethics)
On December 1, 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) heard arguments regarding the legality of abortion restrictions put into place by the state of Mississippi. The case is known as Dobbs v. Jackson. It is the most high-profile abortion case argued before the Supreme Court since Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992.
In March 2018, Mississippi passed the Gestational Age Act (GAA), banning any abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The law contains only two exceptions: the first is a life-threatening emergency affecting the mother, and the second is when a severe fetal abnormality exists. Both exceptions are detailed in the law to prevent the exceptions from creating loopholes. The GAA does not contain an exception for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest.
Within 24 hours of the governor signing the bill into law, Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the sole abortion provider in Mississippi, filed suit challenging the law’s constitutionality. The state of Mississippi argued the case in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi before Judge Carlton Reeves. Judge Reeves ruled in November 2018 that the law was unconstitutional based on Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which allowed that, prior to viability, a state has a legitimate interest in protecting the health of the woman and the fetus if the state did not place an undue burden on a woman’s right to choose an abortion. Since Mississippi was forbidding a woman from choosing abortion after 15 weeks rather than specifying the conditions in which a woman could obtain an abortion, Mississippi had “no legitimate state interest strong enough, before viability, to justify a ban on abortions.” As part of his ruling, Judge Reeves placed an injunction on Mississippi that prevented the state from enforcing the law.
Mississippi then appealed its case to Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. In November 2019, the Fifth Circuit upheld the lower court ruling in a unanimous 3-0 ruling, known as Jackson Women’s Health Organization v. Thomas E. Dobbs. Dobbs serves as the Mississippi State Health Officer for Mississippi. In their ruling, the Fifth Circuit agreed with the district court, concluding that Planned Parenthood v. Casey “…prohibits any and all bans on pre-viability abortions.”
On June 15, 2020, the state of Mississippi filed a writ of certiorari (legal process to have a case heard) before the U.S. Supreme Court. After a series of delays and extensions, primarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the petition for writ of certiorari was finally granted on May 17, 2021. The original petition by the state of Mississippi requested SCOTUS to address three separate questions regarding the legality of abortion. Upon granting the petition, SCOTUS agreed to address only one of those questions. That question is “whether all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional.”
CMDA strongly supports pro-life values and is hopeful the current conservative majority on the Supreme Court will answer that question by making pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortion constitutional. CMDA submitted an Amicus Curiae (friend of the court) brief arguing that the primary ethical duty of all healthcare professionals within Hippocratic medicine is to “First, do no harm” (“primum non nocere”). CMDA affirms that life begins at conception in our position statement on abortion. Therefore, all elective abortions inflict harm on the unborn child and terminate the life of that child.
CMDA further argues in this brief that the intentional killing of unborn children erodes the integrity and ethics of the healthcare profession, because healthcare professionals are instrumentally involved in that loss of life. Rather than being agents of healing, they become instruments of death. CMDA recognizes that the government has an interest in protecting the integrity of the healthcare profession through various regulatory mechanisms that should include the prohibition of abortion. Therefore, CMDA is hopeful SCOTUS will recognize the importance of protecting the integrity of the healthcare profession by allowing states to place restrictions on abortion.
CMDA members, including several CMDA staff, joined other like-minded medical organizations within the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine (AHM) on December 1 on the steps of the Supreme Court to participate in a white coat ceremony during the Dobbs v. Jackson oral arguments. Our goal was to declare three truths regarding the science surrounding abortion. First, the science of embryology supports life beginning at conception. Second, recent research has shown that pre-born babies can feel pain as early as 12 weeks gestation. Third, research documents that abortion is associated with an increased risk of pre-term birth and breast cancer in the mother.
We need to proclaim that abortion is harmful to women, and it certainly is not healthcare. Please pray we can make our voices heard and that we may “…shine like stars in the universe as [we] hold firmly to the word of life…” (Philippians 2:15-16, NIV).
 Jackson Women’s Health Org. v. Currier, 349 F. Supp. 3d 536 (S.D. Miss. 2018)
 Jackson Women’s Health Org. v. Dobbs, 945 F.3d 265 (5th Cir. 2019). https://casetext.com/case/jackson-womens-health-org-v-dobbs-1
 U.S. Supreme Court review of petition for writ of certiorari in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. (2021). Washington. https://www.supremecourt.gov/DocketPDF/19/19-1392/145658/20200615170733513_FINAL%20Petition.pdf